Suddenly, there's a wild card in the National League wild-card race.
And while the Arizona Diamondbacks probably are too far back to actually earn a wild-card berth this season, they definitely are influencing the playoff picture.
The Diamondbacks started last week by taking two of three from the Phillies at home to push Philadelphia behind the Padres into the third and last National League wild-card spot.
Then Arizona took three of four from Milwaukee to keep the Brewers from closing on the Phillies and Padres for that final playoff slot.
Now, the Diamondbacks are in San Diego for three games, beginning Monday. Arizona enters the series 8 1/2 games below the wild-card cutoff line. But if they sweep the Padres, that number would shorten.
"We have goals and things we want to accomplish before this season is over," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said recently. "I love it that we're playing games that are meaningful late in the season. Who knows -- they might be meaningful for us."
The Diamondbacks have won eight of their past 10 games. The Padres just suffered two straight losses at Dodger Stadium to complete a 6-3 road trip.
"Overall, it was a positive trip," Padres manager Bob Melvin said. "But it could have been a lot better."
On paper, the Padres' schedule should boost San Diego's playoff hopes. Eighteen of the Padres' final 27 games are at home. But a third of those home games are against the Dodgers (who are 10-3 against the Padres this season), and the Padres will have three each against the NL Central-leading Cardinals and American League Central-challenging Chicago White Sox.
And then there's this: The Padres are just 35-28 at home this season. And while they are averaging 4.97 runs a game on the road, they are scoring only 3.83 runs a game at home.
"It's time to step it up at home," said Melvin, who isn't buying the excuse that Petco Park is somehow in his team's head offensively. "Both teams play on the same field."
The Padres are 9-3 against the Diamondbacks thus far, with a home-and-home set remaining.
Monday's opener will feature right-hander Ryne Nelson making his major league debut for the D-backs, with left-hander Blake Snell (6-7, 3.87 ERA) starting for the Padres.
The 24-year-old Nelson was Arizona's second-round pick in the 2019 draft. He was 10-5 with a 5.43 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Reno. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Nelson's 128 strikeouts in 136 innings and won-loss record are more notable than the ERA.
Snell has not faced a Diamondbacks hitter this season. He owns a 3-0 career record against Arizona with a 0.61 ERA, giving up two runs on 13 hits and nine walks with 46 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings.
Snell is 6-2 over his past 10 starts, and the Padres are 6-4. He has thrown six shutout innings in two or his past four starts and allowed one run or less in eight of his past 11 starts.
--Field Level Media
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